Red Lama


Written by: AP on 06/08/2018 19:17:21

Although psychedelic music has been thriving in Denmark for a long time now, thanks to a number of firebrand individuals running the scene, it has largely remained an underground phenomenon. When Spids Nøgenhat was revived after an eight-year hiatus in 2009, however — just as collecting vinyl was transforming into a popular thing again — and eventually played a triumphant concert at the iconic Roskilde Festival in 2014, however, it was as if a spark was ignited among connoisseurs and hipsters alike to revisit the golden era of the LP, and thereby also the golden era of psychedelic rock that reigned from the mid-‘60s to the early ‘70s. This renewed interest brought with it a string of new artists that eventually became mainstream darlings — most notably Fribytterdrømme and De Underjordiske — and the surge is yet to show signs of abating. Certainly not with the emergence of Red Lama, whose unique take on the genre has mesmerised various writers of this webzine in the live setting time after time since we first encountered the septet at Copenhagen Psych Fest in 2016. As you can imagine then, this sophomore album from the group, “Motions”, was high on the list of our most anticipated releases this year, and the time has now come to determine whether it delivers on those expectations.

The first thing to note about “Motions” in comparison to its predecessor, 2016’s “Dreams Are Free”, is that it immediately comes across as a more focused, perhaps even a more conventional affair, with the songs now less inclined to decompose into those long, feverish jam segments that made the début album so mesmerising. One of the outcomes of this new strategy is that vocalist Johannes Havemann Kissov Linnet conquers a bigger slice of the soundscape in tracks like “Post Optimism” and “Come What May”, both of which paint an impression of what U2 might sound like in an alternative universe rife with mushrooms, and all in the colours of Mardi Gras. It might sound like a stretch to compare Linnet’s singing to Bono’s, but once you have experienced the stadium-enveloping potential of the two singles, your skepticism regarding the simile is likely to recede. But while Red Lama certainly pays more attention to the tastes and desires of the mainstream now, existing fans need not fret — there are still plenty of opportunities for tripping out littered across the record. The two guitarists, Jonas Harboesgård Rahbek and Oliver Fick, remain conscientious riff objectors, taking every opportunity they can to liaison with Morten Kaas on the organ and electronic effects and swirl off into scintillating, kaleidoscopic melodies that are neither lead nor rhythm, but rather a kind of comfort blanket of reverberating, pleasantly chiming notes. It thus becomes bassist Frederik Randrup Hansen’s responsibility to lock down a groove to which the three musicians can cling — and as you can imagine, the result is a wonderfully strong punch from that instrument in the overall soundscape.

One instrument that is no longer afforded that privilege, however, is the bongo drum rack manned by Niklas Sjøbeck Jørgensen. He plays a bit part role for large portions of this new album, with his instrument either used more sparingly or pushed further outfield than was the case on “Dreams Are Free” — which must be frustrating considering that the bongo drums are a staple of Red Lama’s sound and indeed the sole reason that some people ascribe the term ‘tribal psychedelic rock’ to the band. “Have a Great Today” and “Fular” are notable exceptions and not surprisingly, it is these two songs that offer the most interesting rhythms and percussion found on the record. The former also stands out as one of the most memorable tracks on the record by virtue of its undulating structure, swelling and receding, intensifying and throttling down at exactly the right moments. “Awakening”, meanwhile, invites the Balkan artist Bjonko into the fold, and his clarinet soliloquies afford the song a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere and ensure it is easily and fondly remembered, even amongst the strong selection of tracks that comprise the first two thirds of the record. Indeed, only the last three songs (the intermezzo-style “Wave” and the two-part “Elements”) manage to cast a thin shadow, taking the steam out of an otherwise highly satisfying work of psychedelic rock qua their brooding and somewhat elusive style.

So although “Motions” is unable to revel in uniqueness to the same extent as its predecessor, taking on a more straightforward character in a quest to invite new listeners onboard, it really is difficult to find much fault in the decisions that Red Lama has made here. As mentioned in the preamble to this review, psychedelic rock is enjoying something of a renaissance in Denmark recently, and with the more widespread appeal of many of these tracks, the Copenhagen-based ensemble are well on their way to establishing a reputation as some of the movement’s maestros.


Download: Awakening, Post Optimism, Have a Great Today, Come What May
For the fans of: All Them Witches, The Black Angels, Fribytterdrømme
Listen: Facebook

Release date 23.02.2018
All Good Clean Records

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